Portable fire extinguishers

By: December 3rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: How should I mount and mark portable fire extinguishers? Is it mandatory for fire extinguishers to be mounted on the wall or poles? Do they need to have a sign? Do they need to be painted red?

A: According to OSHA’s Fire Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.157), “the employer shall provide portable fire extinguishers and shall mount, locate, and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subject the employees to possible injury.” So yes, please mount your portable extinguishers within 75 feet of employee work areas, 50 feet for class B or C extinguishers. Also, use appropriate labels/signs so the extinguishers can be identified. Regarding painting the extinguishers, in the United States they are usually red, but this is not a requirement. The color of the extinguisher often depends on its contents. For example, sometimes dry chemical extinguishers are yellow to distinguish them from carbon dioxide extinguishers (red), especially if both types are used in the same area.

Finally, obtain the MSDS for the fire extinguisher you use in your facility and keep it on file.

*This is an excerpt from The OSHA Training Handbook for Healthcare Facilities by Sarah E. Alholm, MAS.


By Sandra Hensley on December 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I was interested in this post because we have found fire extinguishers unsecured in our construction sites and would like to know if the same rules apply in construction sites.

Hi Sandra-

Will Kilburn (managing editor) here. How exactly do you mean “unsecured”? In looking over the standard cited above, which pertains to indoor use/placement of fire extinguishers, the regulations relate more to placement and accessibility. While we may be used to seeing fire extinguishers mounted on walls or in alcoves, this is not part of the OSHA standard.

If their placement somehow violated that standard– for example, if the extinguisher was likely to go missing, be knocked over and become inoperable, or if its placement is a hazard in itself (blocking an exit, for example), then that would be a matter of concern, but the OSHA regulation doesn’t call for any particular mounting or placement of fire extinguishers.

Let me know if this answers your question, Will

By Judy Ruggeri on December 22nd, 2012 at 8:42 am

I was under the impression if you require an employee to use a fire extinguisher you must send them to fire training classes.

Hello Judy,

Managing Editor Will Kilburn here. The short answer is that your impression is correct, but the rules are a little less restrictive than you may think.

First off, I want to clarify that an employee can’t be “required” to use a fire extinguisher. I’m sure that’s not what you meant, but I want to make clear to other readers that there’s no requirement for an employee to grab a fire extinguisher and use it when faced a with a fire.

What you can do is designate certain employees who can attempt to put a fire out with an extinguisher as everyone else evacuates; or, you can permit all employees to use fire extinguishers. With both of these options– designating certain employees who are allowed to use fire extinguishers, or allowing all employees the option to use them– you have to provide education.

What sort of education? In a letter of interpretation here http://tinyurl.com/c93crnd, OSHA wrote that the education must “familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use”; while this education can also– at the employer’s discretion– include hands-on training, up to and including putting out a fire in a training setting, OSHA doesn’t require that level of training. According to the letter above, that standard can be met if the employer provides “educational materials, without classroom instruction, through the use of employee notice campaigns using instruction sheets or flyers or similar types of informal programs”.

That’s it– anything beyond that is up to the employer, but the basic requirement is only that the employee be made familiar with the equipment and principles of fighting a fire with a fire extinguisher, which does not, interestingly, require the employee to have hands-on training.

Let me know if this answer was helpful; as with all safety regulations, particularly those related to fire safety, it can be helpful to also check in on your respective state and local authorities to make sure their requirements aren’t more strict than federal standards, but that’s our interpretation as far as OSHA is concerned.

Best, Will wkilburn@hcpro.com

I understand a fire extinguisher “B” must be placed w/in 50 feet for access. Is there a regulation regarding how close to place an extinguisher to a fuel source?

By Nancy J. Solak on July 10th, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Can carts or other portable objects be placed in front of or to the immediate side of a fire extinguisher?

Sir can we pait fire extinguisher as hole or full body after refill?

By Vincent Adler on September 26th, 2019 at 8:08 pm

Is it legal to wire brush a rusted portable ext. and repaint it in an industrial setting?


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